Our sustainable university - Investent and purchasing

The University spends roughly £24 million annually on goods and services and seeks to manage its assets responsibly, so responsible financial decisions are critical for impact in sustainability. Our aim is to contribute to local economies and support social and global justice through Fairtrade, developing sustainability in our supply chain, and through ethical investment practices.


Our responsible supply chain actions

We have been working on delivering sustainable procurement as recognised at level 3 in the Sustainable Procurement Flexible Framework and to reduce our Scope 3 emissions from procurement by 12% by 2020.


  • Key contracts such as our caterers BaxterStorey have specified sustainability requirements in the tendering process. Learn more about our sustainable catering standards here
  • As members of the Southern Universities Purchasing Consortium we support the adoption of higher standards such as affiliation to Electronics Watch to address slavery in IT supply chains
  • We reduce travel impacts through a subsidized Stagecoach bus service
  • We joined Gloucestershire Anti-Slavery Partnership and approved its statement in relation to the Modern Slavery Act
  • We have reduced costs and impacts by switching to AAA rated printer-copier-scanners
  • We were an observer in the DFID funded “Promoting poverty aware procurement on campus” project, facilitated by the EAUC
We are a Fairtrade University 2019 logo

The University has held Fairtrade status since 2006 under the Fairtrade Foundation. We are now reviewing practice with the aim of being reviewed against new NUS accreditation scheme requirements.


Our success stories

  • Conducting an institution-wide risk and impact assessment in 2016 across our entire purchasing operation, to guide our improvement priorities, using 4 criteria for environmental, social, financial and reputational considerations
  • Intervening on key contracts to improve decision making so that we spend in ways that benefit sustainability as well as achieving value for money – we are gathering case studies of improvements made and cost savings realised as a result
  • Operating an in-house equipment swap scheme SHARE (Search Here And Re-use Equipment) helps staff teams to exchange furniture, specialist kit and office supplies to avoid making new purchases
  • Developing guidance and training for our lead buyers and tender managers in sustainable procurement practice, through our Power of the Purse project
  • Working with local partners our Product Design team runs the local monthly repair café in Cheltenham with the charity Vision 21 and offer pop-up re-use and repair sessions on campus

Power of the Purse – Staff Development and Engagement


Image of a workshop with NetSustain

In 2016-17 we started our new staff development and training initiative with NetSustain, to drive sustainability improvements and embed circular economy principles into our policy and practice. Two workshops were held, with 100% participation from our team of buyers across departments who have the most influence on our top priority contracts. These staff advised on the development of clear, simple decision-making advice and step-by-step guidance on how to apply responsible procurement principles in areas such as computing, publications and clothing.

See workshop programme/slides

See staff guidance

This work continues with the roll-out of ‘top tips’ to the entire University community so that we influence all levels of purchasing power, engaging students and staff in rethinking their buying habits not just in University life but as consumers outside the University, and to inform them to maximize the positive impacts they can have, through business travel, hospitality, field trips and equipment purchases.

Ethical investment

Imaeg of Sterling pound coins to indicate taking fund management seriously

We take our fund management seriously and are committed to regular monitoring and updating of our ethical investment activities, in line with our institutional values and ethos.

Ethical Investment Policy (Last updated March 2018 following annual report to FGPC)

  • Restrictions apply to the full scope of institutional investments
  • Policy is signed off by Finance and General Purposes Committee (FGPC)
  • Specifies annual review, evaluation and monitoring process and responsibilities
  • An annual report to University Executive guides recommendations to FGPC as well as an annual report from the investment fund manager to FGPC, who also receive an annual report on the treasury policy which includes ethical investment.

Continuous improvements to our ethical investment policy resulting from annual monitoring:

  • 2018 – The University took the decision to fully divest from fossil fuel extraction companies with immediate effect following dialogue with students, staff and University Council.
  • 2016 – Specified no investments in thermal coal, oil shale and tar sands; widened restrictions on armaments strategic components and services; and linked to the EIRIS standard to cover international law on human rights and labour standards as well as oil and mining standards.
  • 2008 – Specified no investments in companies associated with tobacco, armaments manufacture and trading, abuses of human rights, mining or oil.

Students are able to inform policy development through SU engagement and invitations to inform UEC on specific matters (e.g. fossil fuel debate 2016-2017). Staff and other stakeholders can also raise issues or compliance breaches by directly contacting the Head of Finance.

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